Local and state officials as well as community members were able to get their first look inside a much-discussed and anticipated new business which the city of Beckley hopes will serves as an anchor for downtown development.
Although not officially open for business, Fruits of Labor nonetheless held a breaking of bread ceremony during a dedication of the new business on Monday morning.
Tammy Jordan, Fruits of Labor president, said the addition of the Beckley location in the former Zen’s Café building on Neville Street will help in furthering the business’ vision to educate, train, certify and employ individuals in recovery and youth as an addiction prevention program.
“The center will provide opportunities for employment, training and the advancement of students participating in Fruits of Labor's program, as well as tremendous recovery support resources through Seed Sower, WorkForce (West Virginia), Jobs of Hope and other various partners to provide a holistic approach to recovery,” Jordan said to the dozens of individuals gathered on the street outside the business for the ceremony.
“Today this building is fully dedicated to the opportunity and devoted to reach out to individuals in recovery and youth in need of support to provide a space of personal and professional development and growth.”
Originally started in Rainelle roughly 20 years ago, Fruits of Labor also has locations in Alderson and Montgomery, which opened in the past two years.
At the new Beckley location, Jordan said she plans to use each of the building’s three stories, which will include a café/bakery, a coffee shop and conference space.
It’s been just over a year since the city announced its intention to purchase the Zen’s Café building with the idea of bringing a Fruits of Labor location to Beckley. Jordan said it feels surreal to see everything falling into place.
Although shipping delays exacerbated by Covid pushed back the initial opening date for the Beckley location, Jordan said she plans to announce a soft opening in the coming weeks.
In preparation for Monday’s event at Fruits of Labor, which also included a hand-made lunch, students who are part of Fruits of Labor’s training program showed up to the Beckley location Saturday to begin preparing the food.
“Having the students there on Saturday, and seeing them all in the kitchen for the first time ... Two of them were on the grill doing the airline chicken breast for (Monday) and they looked at each other and said, ‘We’re the first people to ever use this (grill),'” Jordan said.
“And then we had to buy pizza, because we didn't have any food here ... and we also didn't have any paper plates, so we had our pizza on (the restaurant’s) china. So they were the first ones to be served on our plates and it's just those little things that are meaningful and impactful.”
Jordan said it’s been humbling to hear the stories from students, many of whom said Monday that being part of Fruits of Labor not only changed but saved their lives.
“I think that we have seen a transition in our culture, in our communities, that recovery is happening in communities, and we're gonna have to be supportive of it,” she said. “No longer can we turn a blind eye to substance use disorder; we have to be part of the solution.”
Also present Monday to give remarks during the ceremony were Beckley Mayor Rob Rappold and U.S Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., as well as representatives from U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin’s and West Virginia first lady Cathy Leigh Comer Justice’s offices.
“As mayor, I can't overemphasize how pleased and proud I am to have played a part in what we're celebrating today,” Rappold said.
In July 2021, Rappold cast the deciding vote to purchase the Zen’s Café building and a parking lot for just over $1 million.
Capito said the programs established by Fruits of Labor serve as a perfect example for what communities can do when they help one another.
“I think that the beauty of, I think, West Virginia is we help one another,” Capito said. “We’re going to have to find solutions for (the drug epidemic) all across the country. Let's create the solutions here in West Virginia.
"Recognizing you have an issue, and you have a problem, and trying to find solutions to it, that's where we're the strongest," Capito said. "I'm proud of what we see here. I think that providing opportunity and turning a negative situation into a positive, is all about the West Virginia way.”
Following opening remarks, loaves of bread were passed out by Fruits of Labor students. Participants were asked to take a piece for the breaking of the bread ceremony.
“As you know, when you're baking bread, all of the bread was created by one bulk amount of dough to shape the many different loaves being passed through the group today, and being broken off by individual hands,” Jordan said. “Just like the bread, we come together united with a single vision and purpose of seeing opportunities for those in recovery, to see our communities enter a place of healing and individual lives transformed by their hard work and devotion to the recovery journey.”
Those present were then asked to place their piece of bread into a large bowl as they walked into the Fruits of Labor café.
“These pieces of bread are to remind us throughout the day that while our piece in (the) recovery journey may seem small and insignificant compared to the global issue of substance use disorder, collectively, we can make a tremendous impact, one life at a time,” Jordan said.